AZT 1: Monument 102, from the border with friends

Our neighbor gave us a ride to Montezuma Pass, the trailhead nearest to the southern terminus of the Arizona Trail. We all headed south to the monument together, our neighbor, THE, Dead Animal, Neon, and I. We had met THE and Dead Animal on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012. During our AZT planning it all worked out to start this trail together. As we approached the monument, we met Geaux Geaux Girl, another thru-hiker. After many photos at the monument we all headed north together, bidding good-bye to our neighbor.

The climb from Montezuma Pass is a long one, but the weather was good and being the first day on the trail we were all feeling strong. We climbed Miller Peak, an ultra-prominence extra-credit highpoint, near the top of the ridge. It was well worth the additional 1/2 mile and ~260 ft of elevation. The views were amazing, but by this point we were all feeling tired. We decided to camp on the ridge after bathtub spring and soak in our first sunset on the trail.

We woke cold and descended into the Canelo Hills. It takes a while to get into a thru-hike. Even as I think about writing this blog, my mind drifts from the miles, the water, the soreness, to the surreal experience of traversing the Arizona mountains and valleys along the Mexican border.

These first few passages of the AZT are the best marked trail I’ve ever been on. There were many intersections, but they were all signed or had large cairns marking them. The miles were good, but did not come easily. There was a lot of up and down over the rugged, rocky, Arizona terrain. There was a lot more water than we were expecting to find and most of it from natural sources, springs and creeks. Some of the creeks even offered us a swimming hole, albeit a very cold experience. The days were warm, but not too hot, mid 70’s to mid 80’s. The nights, on the other hand, have been quite cold, waking up to a moist 29 deg F, our last morning before reaching Patagonia.

The days, though exhausting, passed easily in the company of friends. I still find my thoughts shifting between the details of the trail: water, elevation gain, weather… and the moments: the jokes that made us laugh, the turkey calls in the morning, and the search for a good ridge to watch the sunsets from…

Grinding out the last few miles before Patagonia Neon and I decided to stick in the headphones… A song I hadn’t heard before began playing on my MP3 player, Melody by Kate Earl. I hit repeat for at least an hour… “No matter what has ever come to me. I got my own brand of company. I got da da da inside my head. And I play songs back to back until I go to bed. … … There’s a river in my mind that’s never still. Swirling, soothing all the time gives me a thrill. Swimming in the notes that go, Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh. … … Wandering, waking in an empty wood. It is quiet here, i am powerful. I look down below, serenade the world from inside my soul.”

As we took our last steps into town, joking and dreaming about food, I could feel the layers begin to shed and the metamorphosis of hiker-trash returning.

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